Do they rank for their own keywords?An SEO company that doesn't rank for their own key words, is like hiring a mechanic that's unable to fix his own car. Why would you hire someone that can't do for themselves what they are trying to do for you, let alone charge you so much money? So make sure that a company actually ranks--they showup in search engine results--for keywords that they're trying to optimize for. So for example, if you're trying to rank for something in San Antonio, type in "SEO San Antonio" or "San Antonio SEO" and see if this company actually ranks on that front page. If they're unable to rank their own company, what in the world makes you think that they're going to be able to actually get results for you?
No "About Us" Page - An SEO company that doesn't have an "About Us" pageis saying to the consumer that they don't want you to know who they are. And you have to ask yourself, "Why is it that somebody's trying to hide themselves?" Wouldn't they want to be out there and introduce you and say, "Hi, I'm such and such person, and this is our company, know more about us." Usually people that don't have an about us page--they're trying to hide. They don't want you to have their contact information. So this is a real clear signal that this might be a fraudulent or untrustworthy company. It's very important to have an "About Us" page and let people know who you are.
Tiered SEO Packages - SEO is not a one-size-fits-all service, every business is different, and SEO is getting harder and harder. Would you buy a B package and not want the best? There's only one way to do SEO because SEO is a zero-sum game: there's only one winner and everyone else is a loser. There's a number one result, then number two, number three, and so on. So you can really only--when you do SEO for somebody--do the best that you can. If we offer a Package B, a Package C, a Package D, what we're saying is that we can do OK for you. We can do all right. --But that's not how we at Geek Powered Studios operate; we do the best that we can do, and we're going to get you results, so we only have an A Package. And in addition to tiered packages, if a company is extremely "affordable"--like several hundred dollars a month--what do you think you're really paying for? As difficult as SEO is (and it's getting harder and harder) do you think that few hundred dollars a month is really going to get you ahead of everybody else who is spending thousands of dollars a month? Let's be realistic here: that company is probably not going to get you the best results, and you're probably not going to end up growing your business. You're probably just filling someone's pockets with money.
Nobody can guarantee rankings. And let me say that again: nobody can guarantee rankings. And that is because Google is Google, and at the end of the day, they do what they want. They are going to make updates. They are going to make the game harder. SEO is an incredibly difficult art. So if somebody that comes out to you and says, "Hey, I'm going to guarantee your rankings," or, "Yeah, you'll get front page," or ,"You're going to get this top key word and be number one," to be honest with you, they are lying to you. There's nobody in the world that can guarantee rankings, so just don't even buy into that.
Don't Disclose Clients - Just like not having an "About Us" page, if they're not showing you tangible results for other clients, again that's a really bad signal. It's showing that they're not standing behind their results. Have they had successful clients in the past? And what have they done for other people to help them grow their businesses? If a company's not showing you their clientele, then what makes you think that they are reputable or trustworthy and that they've actually done this before and are going to get you results? So make sure you see some client results or testimonials and that they're not just written because, let's face it, anybody can just make up a testimonial and put it on their website. But there's a big difference between a written testimonial and a video testimonial that is genuine and compelling.
Pay For Performance SEO - Pay for performance is a unique business model, but as far as the SEO world, it doesn't work. What is the motivation for an SEO company to give it their all and to win for you and grow your business when they first have to invest several months' worth of work before they see a dime. It doesn't make any sense. It's not a realistic business model. How can you expect them to help you rank and beat everybody else when you don't have to pay until done. It's completely unrealistic, and I would not trust it at all.
Directory/Article/Search Engine Submissions - Any company that says they're going to do mass article submissions, mass search engine submissions, or mass directory submissions--I would run the other way. Google has come out time and time again and said the quality of links, not the quantity, is what matters. So people that are still out there peddling thousands of links or hundreds of links--especially when it's overnight--I would just run the other way. That's a clear signal that they don't know what they're doing, they're outsourcing their link building, and you're going to get in a lot of trouble and spend a lot of money--a lot of wasted money.
No Physical Office Location - If an SEO company doesn't have a physical location, that's really untrustworthy. When your rankings tank, there is no one to go strangle! So you need to really make sure that whoever you're hiring isn't some guy in his underwear at home. It needs to be a real business with a physical location where you can actually go to the company and check in them, make sure that they are real, they are actually working for you, and that they are reputable. Again, no physical location: completely untrustworthy.
Don't Give Ownership of Data - I would be very leery of companies that try to copyright your data. And the emphasis is on your data. If they create a Google account in their name, but they're using it for your business, that's very suspicious. --Or if they try to register a domain in their name on your behalf, I'd be very leery because if the relationship goes sour, they're going to have all the leverage. They are going to try and control you, lock you into a contract or hold your domain and your business hostage. Make sure that everything that's being done is in your name, that they are being transparent. Because it's ethical, first of all, but you just want to make sure that you don't get screwed by this company that's trying to control your data and your business.
Long-Term Contracts - A long-term contract is a simple way for a company, in a very subtle way, to say that we don't stand behind our work. Long-term contracts, they're there to lock you in. So no matter what happens, even if the company is messing up and not getting you results, you're going to keep paying. --And that's not a relationship, that's just you being screwed. So if a company really stands behind their work, they will allow you to do month-to-month or something more realistic. Long-term contracts are really a lose/lose for you. That's not a trustworthy signal, I would definitely stay away.
Unsolicited Offers - Kind of like the SEO company that can't rank for their own keywords, unsolicited offers--if you're getting somebody emailing you or cold calling you saying, "We offer SEO services,"--that just reeks of somebody being a scam artist or being fraudulent. Nobody cold calls that can actually, legitimately get leads organically or through their own methods of SEO. It just shows that the company is desperate and untrustworthy when they're actually actively out there soliciting business through blindly spamming through email or making phone calls. It's too funny that someone would claim to do SEO but is out there using traditional spamming (really annoying methods) to gain new business. It would be like us going door to door trying to sell SEO--it just doesn't make any sense.
They "Know Someone At Google" - My favorite one is when somebody says they "know someone at Google." Yeah, right. Very seldom do you get a Google representative, and they are on a rotating basis. You literally have to be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, and even then, your contact with Google and having a representative is limited, at best. You're never going to have a dedicated rep, and even if you do, it's for pay per click (PPC), it's not for SEO. Somebody can say they know somebody, but that's not how it works, so don't trust that, it's completely fraudulent.